FAMILIAR FACE: Chris Lloyd will speak at The Witham
FAMILIAR FACE: Chris Lloyd will speak at The Witham

THE life of a 19th century megalomaniac maverick businessman will be recounted at a talk being given by historian, author and journalist Chris Lloyd next week.

Titled King Henry the Ninth: The Donald of Darlo, he will tell the story of Henry King Spark.

He started his career 150 years ago as a printer in Barnard Castle before making the coal deal of his life.

With the proceeds, he bought a mansion, a railway, a newspaper and some mines and then he took on the ruling elite of Darlington, promising the working man that he would drain the swamp of the Quakers.

He successfully forced the formation of the town’s first democratic council and then its own MP, but his attempts to seize power for himself were thwarted by the desperate Pease Party’s underhand – even despicable – tactics.

Beaten, broken and bankrupt, he was booted out of Darlington in 1880, and spent his last decades quietly rehabilitating himself in Barney where he became a vice-president of the Mechanics Institute – which is now The Witham, the venue for Mr Lloyd’s talk.

It tales place on Wednesday, May 15, at 7.30pm.

Chris Lloyd is the chief feature writer of The Northern Echo and Darlington & Stockton Times, where he writes mainly about local history and local politics.

He is a regular speaker at meetings of community groups across the dale, a former North East journalist of the year and the author of ten books.

Tickets for his talk are £6 from The Witham box office on 01833 631107 or go to www.thewitham.org.uk.